Recording, maybe getting better?

It’s amazing  the difference that you can get from throwing away the book. Everything I’ve been reading about sound recording (not much, admittedly) says that you need to set your recording levels as high as possible without introducing clipping. But with the harp –  my harp, at least – that makes everything should like it’s in a cave.

This sample is recorded on my laptop using Audacity with

  • Two pickups – one is a Barcus Berry, made to Alfredo Roland Ortiz’s specs
  • The other is my cheapie clip-on that I use with my tuner (!)
  • The input of the Barcus Berry was EQ’d with a Fish and Chips pedal to reduce the low frequencies (200 hz and below)
  • All fed into a digital interface
  • Input levels set L-O-W
Post processing was minimal – I boosted the level all around and used the envelope tool to reduce one big boom in the left hand (at 35 seconds, can you hear it?)

Not my best playing (you can hear I was distracted by my cat at about 2:30 into it), but a good experiment with sound production. So am I approaching demo quality, with a minimal equipment investment?

I’ve heard of people who produce commercial CD’s on their iPads. What is your setup?

Recording Frustrations

I have been reading more and more about recording harps, trying to get a better sound for my clips. The more I read, the better I get at listening — which is a good thing. But the better my listening gets, the more critical I become.

There are two good things about recording. First of all, you really get to hear how  you sound in a different way than when you are simply playing. By listening to my recordings, I’m learning that simpler really is better! The second best thing about recording is that you can really hear progress when you are working on new techniques. Now that I am through with making my sample recordings for IHTP, I have redone a few from the beginning of the program, and I am so pleased to hear the difference in how I play and sound. I always tell my students to keep their best paper from every class to go back and see their progress, but it is so rare that I take my own advice.

antiques,audio equipment,Fotolia,jukeboxes,music,nostalgia,old,record players,songs,sounds,tunes,vintages

I started recording for the IHTP by simply sticking my phone in front of the harp, and I’ve been slowly moving up; the operative word here is S-L-O-W-L-Y. Currently, I am using two pickups, to get a little richer sound. My harp has one pickup, and the second one is the little clip on pickup I use with my tuner, believe it or not!

I run both of these into a cheapie audio interface, into my latptop, where I record using Audacity. So far, I haven’t done a lot of work with those raw files. I remove the noise, and fade in and out, and sometimes do a little compressing.

Until about a month ago, I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, but now I’m at a road block, and trying to figure out how to move forward. There’s a big ol’ resonance right around A5. You’ve probably heard it if you have tried out my recordings – just be glad I didn’t put the worst ones on the site. I’ve tried a high pass filter and EQ’ing the low A out, but have only managed to make it sound more and more processed, without managing to remove the ring.

Now it’s time to listen to the voice of experience. Steven Vardy, is not only the husband of the amazing Canadian harpist Allison Vardy, he  is also her amazing sound guy – and says this:

The harp will have a dominant resonant frequency where the whole instrument will resonate in the presence of the same frequency. Celtic harps are natural microphones. Rooms also have resonant frequencies and will amplify those resonances when present as well. If the resonance of the room and the harp match then you may have problems. 

When amplified, a harp may put a frequency (say 400 Hz) thru the sound system out in to the room, which resonates at an even more amplified/ louder 400hz, which makes the harp resonates more strongly as well, which puts an even stronger 400hz from the harp back into the sound system and around and around the signal goes until the system becomes unstable and you have feedback. … EQ if you can.

I’ll keep you all posted about how it goes.

Reiki Share

OK, the last time I checked, I wasn’t from Missouri, but as a card-carrying  ISTJ, I’ve got to see it to believe it. So what is it with this Reiki thing? Well, it looks like it is going to be a long story.

Part of the self-care portion of the IHTP curriculum includes a basic introduction to reiki. During our training, we got a short attunement from our instructor Judith Hitt, who is a Reiki Master. And I”ll be darned if I couldn’t pick up the resonant tone of everything around me after that — the room, people’s voices,birdsong, the air conditioner…  Before that session, I was humming high and low, trying to match what I heard, and never quite sure that I was getting it.

So back to the ISTJ-ness that is me. True to form, I found the Reiki Harmony Center here in Phoenix, and found out that reiki practitioners really do practice — on each other. So for $5, I got another attunement, along with an introduction to the actual practice of reiki. So far so good, I can still hear. 🙂

For the record, I don’t know what ki is — maybe it’s a god, maybe it’s some universal electromagnetic energy, maybe it’s something else. I am leaning toward  thinking of it as something hard-wired in our brains – some way we have evolved to be able to recognize, in some form, the bigger picture of things, and put our own selves into perspective. But even if it’s just a giant placebo in the sky, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then we are doing well to provide it with a pond to swim in.

More on Resonance: Standing Waves

M ore on resonant frequency. When you find resonance, you are making standing waves. Here is a video that shows what standing waves are for a vibrating string:

The important thing to see here is that a single shake of the rope makes a single wave that travels down the rope, bounces, and comes back. If many of these shakes happen, there will be lots of little waves, moving back and forth along the rope simultaneously – a real mess.

That is, it’s a real mess until you time the shakes just right. As soon as that happens, the waves start lining up with each other. What you are doing is matching the resonant frequency of the rope, and you’ll get what is called a standing wave. If you shake the rope twice as fast, you’ll see two smaller standing waves (the octave pitch), shake it three times as fast, and you’ll get the next harmonic, and so forth.

If the rope is shorter, then the waves have less distance to travel, and so they make the trip quicker. You have to shake the rope more rapidly to get those standing waves. This is why shorter strings vibrate at higher frequencies, and result in higher pitches. Waves travel  more slowly through thicker ropes, so thicker strings give lower frequencies, and so forth.


One focus of the IHTP training is learning how to recognize a “resonant tone,” or a tone that matches a sound in the environment. Ideally we match the pitch to the patient by listening to the patient’s voice, but there are times where it is useful to match another pitch in the environment, such as a noisy machine, in order to mask the sound.

Resonance is when one vibrating object acts on another object at the same frequency, as in this demonstration. We’ve all seen or heard this happen, usually with something annoying, like when something on our car vibrates at a certain road speed.

When we achieve resonance, the vibrations in the two objects play off of each other to make the sound louder. This is usually when things sound in tune, and the sound we hear is usually richer and fuller, because we have vibrations that work together, instead of fighting each other.

Resonance is NOT always good, though. Here is a video of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which succumbed to resonance just 4 months after it opened in 1944:

Fortunately, engineering has come a long way since then.

Tomorrow, more on how strings vibrate.

Jon Hassell

Spellbinding music by Trumpeter Jon Hassell:

Special Event: Sozo Coffee

Join us at Sozo Coffee on May 5 for a special tea tasting event.

Featuring a variety of exotic, organic, locally crafted teas by Master Tea Blender, Laureen Grenus of Herbescent Organics.

Vanta Thomas owner of Sweet Bamboo Massage will be offering $1/minute Chair massages

And I will be playing harp.

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